Bertha Pitts Campbell Equity Awards
YWCA is celebrating and elevating the work of individuals and companies that are working every day to help make equity and justice a reality through the Bertha Pitts Campbell Equity Awards.
These awards honor people taking action to eliminate racism and empower women; who are breaking down systemic barriers and promoting opportunities for women and girls to thrive and lead, particularly in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
As their nomination explained, “The Seattle Storm has been on the frontlines of the fight for equal opportunities in sports business and social change in the region.” The four-time WNBA champions created Force4Change, a WNBA platform focused on racial, gender, and civil rights. And over the past year, they’ve partnered with other groups to amplify and invest in women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities and businesses across the Puget Sound.
As current board chair of the Northwest African American Museum, Debbie Bird works to challenge racial injustice and dismantle systemic barriers to equity, while also celebrating Black history. She’s also a dedicated mentor who sacrifices her time to support others, particularly BIPOC women. As her nominator stated, “With over 10 years advocating for equity, Debbie’s heart and soul are immersed in the fight for equity and justice.”
As her nominator said, “Youth must see themselves in the movements that affect them.” Kavya Varkey was in high school when she co-founded International Peer Education on Climate Change to remove barriers for youth participation on this critical issue. Now an undergrad at Stanford University, she’s studying the impact of ecological restoration on marginalized communities and hopes to inspire other young women and BIPOC students to become leaders in the climate movement.
These awards honor the life and legacy of Bertha Pitts Campbell (1899 – 1990), a woman who dedicated her life to championing racial and gender equity. She made a difference from the start – while attending Howard College in 1913, she co-founded Delta Sigma Theta, a national service sorority for Black women.
She was also chair of the YWCA Phillis Wheatley Branch from 1932 to 1936, which delivered critical services for thousands of African American women and youth in the Central District.
Asked to represent the branch at YWCA board meetings, but denied a vote because of racial segregation, Pitts-Campbell fought to be recognized as a full board member. Because of her actions, Seattle’s YWCA was the first nationwide to desegregate the board of directors in 1936.